En route to a ghost town
Along the Swazi border, near Barberton, there’s a dirt road pass that used to serve a former asbestos mine. Today, the pass is quiet as the grave and almost forgotten. And that’s how we like it.
If you’re ever in the vicinity of Barberton, put aside a day for one of the most enchanting trails in South Africa. From this town (named after one Graham Barber and not a type of fish in the Vaal Dam) you drive east on the R40 tar road, also known as the geotrail, in the direction of the Josefsdal-Bulembu border post to Swaziland. About 2 km before the border post is a half-hidden turn-off and a sign that reads “Oshoek and Badplaas”.
Long way down
Turn right at the sign and follow a downhill dirt road to the base of a narrow valley. The road drops 800 m over the next 14 km, which places it amongst the top 3% of South Africa’s steepest passes. The road surface is usually in good condition, but after heavy rains you definitely won’t
make it in a regular sedan.
The trail runs through the eastern quarter of the Songimvelo Game Reserve, which is managed by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. Although you drive through the reserve, you don’t have to pay because the trail is a regional road.
After 7 km a hill rises out from the valley floor. A twin-track runs dead straight up this hill (someone cleverer would have built a winding road, but that’s neither here nor there) and you will definitely have to engage low range to make it to the top. Once there, you’ll have a magnificent view over the valley. To the left a waterfall roars, Swaziland lies in front of you, and to the right mountain after mountain fades into the hazy distance.
Four kilometres south is the turn-off to the Dunbar 4x4 Trail. You’re only allowed to drive the trail by appointment and the minimum requirements are that there must be at least two vehicles in your group
and that both those vehicles